Blueprints For Special Needs Families – June 20, 2012
Plan, Save, Invest – Repeat
Aristotle famously said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
Excellence in special needs planning, to paraphrase, means we must put in place positive habits to make the most of our own life and to insure a healthy, safe, fulfilling and complete life for our special needs family member. Planning is not an event, it is a process designed to create the right habits.
Hardly a week goes by where I do not get a call asking me to write a trust for someone. I am a financial planner and not an attorney so even though I know what a trust does, how to structure them and have read many trust documents, I do not do that specific work. My questions to these people are often the same, “Why do you need a special needs trust, and what will you do with it?” The trust is often the first step, and a huge step, in special needs planning. But it is an event, not a habit.
The habits you will need to have change depending on where you are in the overall process. People struggling with debt will need to develop the habit of spending less, working on career moves and overcoming financial obstacles. Family members who have become trustees will have to work on the habits of investing with logic and reason, of following spending policies and of matching income to needs of the special needs person.
Most families will need to work on the following habits as they plan, save and invest for the future needs they face.
- Create a financial plan
- Build emergency funds
- Reduce or retire debt
- Save for retirement and education expenses
- Save for expected future expenses for the special needs person
- Review choices for guardians and trustees to insure those choices are still the best
- Review financial plan and legal documents
- Repeat above steps
Finances are crucial to creating a positive future for your special needs family member. The money only matters if it is spent wisely to help make the best possible life for your family. Money management in a trust will take place over years and maybe decades. This part of life is definitely not an event.
No amount of money can replace the need to be involved with the organizations and people supporting your family today and who will support the person with special needs in the future. We recommend that you get involved today with leading non-profits likely to be involved in caring for and assisting your family over time. Building relationships is also not an event and the habit of working with organizations will be needed as you move from creating your financial plan and resources to adding a care plan for your family member.
The habits of financial planning come easy to some, harder to others – like running, painting, and singing or any other activity. Practice, time and some degree of devotion leads to good habits that leads to a degree of success.
Determine where you are on the process of building a strong future for your family. Chances are you have some habits that have served you well. Take stock of those and begin to get ready for the next step along the way and determine which new habits you will need. Excellence in financial planning will be crucial for your family.
Rob Wrubel CFP®, AIF®, is a Senior Investment Consultant with Cascade Investment Group, member FINRA & SIPC. Rob is also a father of a daughter with Down syndrome. Cascade Investment Group is not a tax or legal advisor. You should always consult with your tax advisor or attorney before taking any actions that may have tax consequences.